Microbeads aka microplastics have been the topic of hot debate for many years now. They may be small, but their impact on the environment is huge and beyond comparable. This is why environmentalists around the world are striving to ban these microbeads as well as the products that use them. Here’s a brief insight into what these microbeads actually are and what they could to the environment in the long run if not taken care of immediately.
What are these microbeads?
Microbeads are miniscule plastic particles that hardly measure about 2 millimeters or less. They contain substances like polypropylene, polyethylene, polyethylene methacrylate, polyethylene terephthalate and even nylon. All these substances translate to plastic which essentially mean that these microbeads are nothing but micro plastics.
Where can you find these microbeads?
In some cases, microbeads are caused by the fragmentation of plastic into smaller pieces. However, the startling fact is that substantial amounts of these microbeads (remember, plastic) can be found in the personal care products we use on a day to day basis. These include our toothpastes, shampoos, soaps, creams, face washes, blushes, compacts and what not!
How do these microbeads impact the environment?
Since they are nothing but plastic, microbeads are non-biodegradable. They cannot be treated by waste water treatment facilities and so, easily flush down the drain to join the water from rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans. Billions of these microbeads end up on the ocean floors every single day, absorbing the toxins in the water. They are eaten by marine life and eventually end up in our stomach.
It has been noted that fishes in particular fall prey to these microbeads as they eat mistake them for plankton or other sea food and end up eating them. The plastics as well as the toxins they carry (pesticides, motor oil, flame retardants, etc.) end by being absorbed by the fishes’ tissues. Such is the toxicity of these microbeads that it has been found out that just a single microbead can be more toxic than water by at least a million times.
How to find out if a product has microbeads?
Not many individuals know as to whether the personal care products they use on a daily basis contain microbeads or not. While countries like the U.S. have strict rules about listing products that contain microbeads in the ingredient list, many other countries do not have this provision.
Hence, it is vital to look out for ingredients like polypropylene, polyethylene, polyethylene methacrylate or polyethylene terephthalate. The presence of any or all of these ingredients in the list indicates the presence of microbeads in the product that you are using.
Why not switch these microbeads with natural substitutes?
This is a question best posed to all the companies out there that deal in cosmetic and healthcare products. Industry secrets reveal that in addition to being cheaper, micro beads are smoother, meaning they don’t cleanse or exfoliate the skin effectively. This leads to individuals using them daily for results, thus driving up the demand for these products.
Recent Developments to ban Microbeads
A move by U.S. President Barrack Obama has led to the ban of personal care products that contain microbeads from 2017. The policy has set the guidelines for other countries to follow suit when it comes to banning these plastics from our oceans and landfills.
Even the Canadian government has stepped up to curb plastic pollution by outlawing products that contain microbeads. Let us hope that other countries around the world work together to abolish the disgusting plastic threatening to destroy our oceans and kill the marine life.
Micro beads are tiny fragments of plastic usually found in cosmetic and healthcare products. These non-biodegradable plastic materials can pose serious threats to the oceans and the environment in general, which is why their use needs to be banned globally.